Steel for Ogden Point piling falls off ship during storm

Pieces of structure to secure giant cruise ships sink to bottom of ocean

Two sections of a massive steel piling intended to secure extra-large cruise ships at Ogden Point toppled off a cargo ship during rough weather and sank to the bottom of the sea.

The loss of the piling adds $3 million to $4 million to the initial cost of the project, said Ian Robertson, chief executive of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. That money will be coming from the authority.

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“I thought someone was pulling my leg,” Robertson said of learning of the accident.

The 200-foot-long sections were built in China and weigh 400,000 pounds each, totalling 362 tons. They went overboard on Dec. 3, about 225 to 250 nautical miles from Vancouver, and about a day from the end of a 30-day voyage from Shanghai. The exact location was not immediately available, but vessels arriving from Shanghai typically sail off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Robertson said the materials were lost during rough seas and that it appears there were problems in securing the load.

The harbour authority was planning a $6.8-million mooring dolphin at Pier B to accommodate Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, scheduled to make its inaugural stop in Victoria on May 12. It is working with the cruise line and B.C. Coast Pilots to determine whether the vessel will be able to moor at Pier A South for its first three to four stops of the season, until another new dolphin is in place, Robertson said.

The Ovation of the Seas has been highly anticipated because it will be the largest cruise ship to dock at Ogden Point and because it would moor for a full day, introducing passengers to the region and its tourism offerings. It is 1,140 feet long and can carry 4,900 passengers.

If it can not be accommodated at Pier A, the vessel will have to moor off Esquimalt Lagoon and it would not be possible to transport passengers to shore via smaller boats, Robertson said.

The lost 10-foot-diameter piling was to be the main component of the new dolphin. It is in waters too deep for recovery.

Mooring dolphins are ultra-strong extensions to piers that allow larger vessels to tie up and serve as a stabilizer. Cruise ships are continually growing in size, prompting ports such as Ogden Point to install dolphins.

Modifications have been made to a backup dolphin design and the authority has been hunting for new steel pilings in North America. Once found, they have to be tested to ensure they meet requirements, Robertson said.

The replacement pilings are also 200 feet long but smaller, at 36 inches in diameter. About 16 are needed for a new mooring dolphin and another 12 for the breasting dolphin, also part of the project, the authority said.

The cost of the project is to be covered through a cruise sustainability fee charged to cruise lines. It will now take eight years, up from seven, to cover the cost.

The federal government is contributing $1.9 million to the dolphin project but will not be putting in additional money for the revised design, Robertson said.

He said the authority is not losing the value of the piling because it was the contractor’s responsibility until delivery. The authority is talking to its insurance representatives to see if expenses related to the new design will be covered.

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